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A letter from Nancy Smith-Mather in the U.S., serving in South Sudan
September 1014 - Delay in Peace, Delay in Return
"Whole! Whole!" he says with enthusiasm. Jordan wants me to sing "God's Got the Whole World in His Hands" again. This song has become a nightly ritual. Jordan can’t wait to hear me name the people he loves, and then add the refrain “in God’s hands.” Sometimes “Elmo,” “milk,” and “feet” get added in by request, and often we end with, “God’s got all people in God’s hands.”
The message of the song calms my anxious spirit every time I sing it; perhaps that is why God nudges Jordan to shout, “Whole! Whole!” It is wonderful to be reminded that I, my family, and friends are all in God’s loving hands. The reality that all the people of South Sudan are also in God’s trustworthy hands helps quench my longing to be present there. While I would like to try to offer some comfort to our South Sudanese friends in the midst of tragic circumstances, I know God is the most hope-filled, powerful and capable “Person” to accompany anyone, and God is always present in South Sudan.Continue reading
A letter from Chenoa Stock in Bolivia
September 2014 - Interpretation Assignment Announcement
Saludos calurosos (warm greetings) from the almost springtime of Bolivia! A change is upon us and I will not hold back my joy. I am no longer wearing three layers to bed at night, I can work in the office without wearing my fingerless gloves, and I can walk around my house without wearing a hood. A springtime transition, indeed.
I, for one, am excited about the months ahead amidst this seasonal transition and for the months of work that have brought us to this point, both locally and internationally, with our presbytery partners. As a mission co-worker, my calling takes me to walk with our global partners ‘far’ away. But every once in a while I am called back and asked to share their stories with those ‘near’ neighbors of churches, friends and family. With YOU! You who support us so willingly and openly with your correspondences, contributions, and prayers for safety, strength and encouragement.Continue reading
A letter from Kay Day in Rwanda
September 2014 - Two Contrasting Countries
Dear Family and Friends,
Greetings from Rwanda. I have just returned from a three-week vacation in Malawi, so this is a different kind of letter, not filled with what God is doing in ministry but a few observations from time away.
Even as we flew into Lilongwe, Malawi, I was struck by the open expanses of the countryside, compared to Rwanda. Two factors account for this. First, Rwanda is the land of a thousand hills. Most of the country is hilly and homes and farming are constructed on hillsides. That alone gives a feeling of being enclosed and nestled into the countryside. Malawi has open plains with short shrubs and small trees in much of the central and southern region. Second, a population issue. Rwanda is one-third the size of Malawi and yet has a population of 11 million compared to Malawi’s 14 million. Of necessity, people live closer together. These differences were reinforced as I rode with my friend Sam Ncozana into the capital of Lilongwe. I had just left Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, driving through tightly populated neighborhoods with iron-roofed houses lining well finished tarmac roads, with curbs and street lights. The drive into Lilongwe was much longer and the road, with chipped edges, meandered through open fields and past thatched-roofed houses with goats grazing along the road. Even the cities are different, with Kigali boasting new high-rise buildings that house the markets and shops while Lilongwe is afforded the space for low, sprawling buildings and open-air markets. Kigali is a new city because of the need for reconstruction after the fighting during the genocide. Lilongwe is an old city that is expanding, growing around what exists. Rwanda’s motorcycle taxis dominate travel, while pedal bikes and pedestrians carrying bundles on their heads take the forefront in Malawi. I was back to the more rustic setting that was so familiar for many years.Continue reading
A letter from Liz Searles in Romania
September 2014 - Learning Center Opens
It's back-to-school time and we at NOROC (New Opportunities for Romanian Orphaned Children) have a short break from nonstop summer camps, excursions and activities to communicate and give thanks.
One BIG news item is the opening of our new Learning Center in a small three-room apartment near the big Tulcea orphanage, Speranta. Thanks to a Texas individual donor, the Louise Covington Learning Center is open with two staff members for about four hours each day. Kids of all ages come to read new books, do crafts, work on the computers, do learning activities, etc. The place is a-BUZZ !!
The Learning Center has transformed NOROC’s ministry and deepened life skills and educational programs. Kids can sign out, drop in, and work on ongoing craft and computer projects in a safe, quiet environment. And they can read new books and have access to a whole new world of fun and learning. There is no TV.Continue reading
A letter from Karla Koll in Costa Rica
August 2014 - The World Comes to Costa Rica
In July the world came to the Latin American Biblical University (UBL). The Global Institute of Theology (GIT), a program of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), brought theology students and professors from 16 countries together on our campus in Costa Rica for three weeks of classes focused on the theme "Transforming Mission, Church and Community.” The GIT, which was first held in Ghana in 2004, seeks to train new leadership for Reformed churches around the world with an ecumenical vision and a commitment to social justice.
I was one of several faculty members of the UBL who were asked to teach an elective course for the GIT. The 11 students who took the course I led on Christian mission and Latin America brought questions from their own contexts. Sally from Indonesia was curious about how Latin Americans do contextual theology in a context where the majority of people are Christians. In her country contextual theology has to be done in conversation with Islam, which is the dominant religious group. Pulak from India, where the churches are embracing aspects of Indian cultures, asked how Christians from different cultures in Latin America incorporate elements from their own cultures into the lives of their churches. As they learned about mission thought and practice in Latin America the GIT students helped me see the context in which I serve with new eyes.Continue reading
A letter from Farris Goodrum serving in Brazil
September 2014 - Many months of festivity!
Greetings from the beautiful island city of Vitoria, in southeastern Brazil. We are in the winter months now, so are enjoying comfortable, cool days. We have had several months of enjoyable activity, beginning with the arrival of our son Michael, who is studying in a college in the Atlanta area. It was wonderful to have Michael in Brazil with us for four weeks in May and June.
June Festivals are a tradition every year in Brazil, when people wear straw hats and plaid shirts, and when foods, typical of life on a farm, are served. Joel’s high school promoted a June Festival, as did many schools and churches. Thelma, Michael, Joel and I made a one-day trip to a mountain town called Domingos Martins, which was founded by German immigrants in 1893, and the streets and restaurants were brightly decorated for the June Festivals
June 8 was Pentecost Sunday, and I was invited to bring the message that Sunday evening in the worship service. I had suggested that church members wear something red that evening, if they should choose to do so, and many people did. There was an air of festivity as we celebrated what is often considered to be the birthday of the early Christian church.Continue reading
A letter from John McCall serving in Taiwan
Fall 2014 - A FULL CIRCLE
Hong chuan grew up in a non-Christian home, and like many first-generation Christians here, became a Christian in university. He attended the best university in Taiwan. He is a bright guy who has always excelled at his studies. Since scholars are well respected in Taiwan, his parents, while not at all excited about his newfound faith, were excited about his prospects. They expected him to go abroad and study for his Ph.D. and then return to teach at one of Taiwan’s good universities.
When Hong chuan felt called to attend Taiwan Theological Seminary, where I teach in Taipei, his parents were not at all supportive. They felt he was bringing shame to their family. They tried to convince him to not attend the seminary, but he was steadfast and knew that this was what God wanted him to do. While studying at the seminary he became especially interested in the Old Testament. He loved the stories of the Old Testament that show God’s covenant love for us. He also enjoyed getting to know one of his female classmates. Her name is Ching hsin. I had the privilege of teaching both of them and got to know them quite well.Continue reading
A letter from Bob Butterfield serving in Portugal
August 2014 - Good News and GREAT News
Dear friends in mission,
Grace and peace to you from our Lord Jesus Christ! Unless you have been completely cut off from news reports this summer and are unaware of the horrific violence taking place around the world, you, like Keiko and me, probably feel a great need right now for grace and peace and for some good news. Fortunately, we do have some good news for you at least about God’s mission in Portugal.
The Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Portugal asked me recently to write a book on what it means to be an active, useful, and committed Christian, and I’ve been at work on that all summer. So far 8 chapters are complete out of a planned total of 20. Each chapter presents the basics about some topic and then asks the readers to analyze three or four case studies on the basis of what they just learned. To make sure the material is understandable and effective, I test it out in a small group, get their suggestions, and make adjustments.Continue reading
A letter from Doug Tilton serving as regional liaison for Southern Africa, based in South Africa
September 2014 - Working to Improve Livelihoods
Dear Friends –
I imagine that you might not be amused if you found that one of the rooms of your home had been taken over by an army of very hungry caterpillars. But for some households in central Madagascar a thriving colony of Lepidoptera larvae is a blessing, not a curse…
The Development Department (SAF) of the Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (FJKM) has been working to help a cluster of communities north of the city of Antsirabe to improve their livelihoods through a variety of income generation, food security and environmental protection initiatives. Since 2002 Mme. Ihanta, an energetic SAF/FJKM project coordinator, has been visiting—on foot—the group of eight villages, helping them to plan, to obtain relevant training, and to realize their dreams. There are now more that 420 members of the project in the area, organized into 28 associations.Continue reading
A letter from Bill and Ann Moore serving in Japan
August 2014 - Our New Role
Dear Friends and Partners in Mission,
Greetings from very warm Kobe. In our part of Japan we are blessed with long, hot and sticky summers as well as lengthy chilly winters that help us to appreciate all the more the fleeting delights of short springs and autumns. We are both well and thankful for opportunities to participate in God’s mission in Japan.
Presently our duties are focused on the leadership and administration of Japan Mission in mission partnership with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). This corporation, also simply known as “Japan Mission,” is charged with the task of partnering with the PC(USA) to facilitate mission in Japan and Asia. Among other things, this involves the direct operation of a hospital chaplaincy program, the oversight of a large hospital, Yodogawa Christian Hospital (YCH) in the nearby city of Osaka, real estate and fund management, the evaluation and monitoring of mission project grants, and dealing with related legal and governmental issues. We have our office in Kobe and are assisted by a very able manager, Elder Jun Hashimoto.Continue reading
A letter from Kari Nicewander serving in Zambia
August 2014 - Annual Ministry Update
It was breathtaking; in the midst of a work trip through the rural Eastern Province we took a detour to one of the most amazing national parks in the world. We watched baby puku nurse from their mothers, giant storks fish in green bays, young impala practice fighting, horns locked against each other. We saw herds of zebra rolling in the dirt, removing ticks from their bodies. We witnessed trios of giraffes walk toward us, as curious about our family as we were about theirs. We stood over a river, keeping a good distance from the crocodiles sunning on the shore, as hippos bathed nearby.
We were frequently interrupted by elephants, including the ones who stood outside our tent, chewing and chomping our shade tree. One early morning we watched a leopard up in the branches eating a baby impala. Below the tree two hyenas waited for the legs of the impala to fall to the ground. Behind us an owl was hunting and a herd of guinea fowl squawked in terror. We sat and watched the leopard eat her meal, as the hyena chomped on bones and the owl swooped toward his prey. In the distance the phenomenal colors of the sunrise created the atmosphere of a dream.Continue reading
A letter from John and Gwenda Fletcher serving in Congo
Summer 2014 - God Provides
Orphaned at age 12, Isuku Isuku (nicknamed Socrate) has experienced some tough times in his short life in the far west of Congo. Compared to many other orphaned Congolese children, however, he was fortunate in that a local woman, Mama Micheline Kakene Kikar, had agreed to be a foster mother to him and two of his siblings. He was in Mama Micheline’s home one day, having some food with her before she resumed her work of soap making. Socrate was thirsty and when he saw what he thought was a glass of clear water on the counter he grabbed the glass, took a big swallow and then began to scream as an unspeakably severe pain, like a fire burning him up from the inside, assailed him. Hearing his screams, Mama Micheline came to his aide, but there was nothing she could do to reverse the situation. The damage was already done. Socrate had drunk some of the lye that Mama Micheline uses for making soap and it had caused a severe chemical burn of his esophagus, the tube that takes food from the mouth to the stomach.Continue reading
Thank You and Your Family for serving God by taking His word so far from Your Home.
God is doing his work and using us a tools in other nations.during my working here in Athens i observed that there are many oppertunities to share the Gospel massage with other those do not know Jesus and we can bring them to Jesus Christ.Please prayer for me that i'm a very littel to that God is using me here in Athens Greece. God bless you.